Let’s check back in with our vicarious vicar, Father Jack. It looks like he’s back in the Hill Cantons. Yes, that’s certainly the odour of Marlankh, and we can see the familiar skyline of off-whitewashed buildings, domed towers, and squatting there in the middle of it all like a great stone toad is the big square Tomb of the City Gods.
Marlankh has been a bit of a puzzle for our foraying friar. Little more than a month ago, during that dark time he ‘remembers’ as ‘The Dry Days,’ Jack was quite shocked to discover he wasn’t in Wessex any longer. He had only recently awoken sober in the Blue Rabbit, walked outside, and uttered “oh hell, I’m still at that feckin’ abbey on the arse end of Cornwall,” when he was whisked away by the vagaries of interdimensional instability. Although he had already been to the Hill Cantons multiple times, this was the first time he realised it wasn’t south-western Britain. He quickly came to the only reasonable conclusion. He was in Hell.
The Dry Days are past now, of course, as fleeting wealth always seems to find a way back into Jack’s pockets, but their influence has had a lasting effect on the Father’s perception. He knows now that he isn’t merely waking from another delirium, but has rather staggered through a gap in the world he knows into Hades. And this Hades, unsurprisingly, is populated with people he knows! Here is The Clown, The Dandy, and Warlock Spiderman. Not only are they in Hell, but worse, he suspects them all of being French. And here too is one of the natives of this City of Purgatory, the irrepressible Marzipan.
It doesn’t take many drinks in The Flaming Goat to understand that mischief is afoot. Marzipan has unwittingly found himself bound in matrimony to one of Marlankh’s other hellish denizens. Such unwelcome bonds are not easily broken in the Netherworld, so the logical course of action becomes immediately clear. Kidnap her and demand ransom from her wealthy father. Jack is sure it made sense at the time, and anyway, what of it? One path is as good as another when dealing with these Godless heathens of The Pit.
In hushed and soundly intoxicated tones, a plan begins to coalesce in the smoke filled air of a back corner. The plan grows like a stubborn, deep-rooted vine. The plan is detailed. The plan is complex. The plan is completely over Father Jack’s head.
Even in the Bowels of Hell convention returns, and Jack spends the next three days in accustomed fashion, alternately drinking and sleeping in a hearthside chair at The Flaming Goat. Are those his erstwhile comrades at a table nearby? Why yes, there’s Warlock Spiderman chatting up a woman! This must be the She-Devil of Marzipan. And her sisters! With an expectoration of “girls!,” Jack privately vows to pay more attention to the plan next time.
Hopefully the next plan hasn’t begun yet, because the next thing our vague vicar recalls is standing in front of an illusory merchant shop. Dandy Smallberries is doing his best to entice the She-Devil of Marzipan to come inside. Seeking an antidote for her reluctance, Jack offers a bit of the odd white powder he found in that subterranean laboratory in Outland. The land of imprisonment and broken dreams. Curious, the She-Devil samples a bit of the powder and is suitably enthralled. Entering the phantasmal doorway, her and her brutish guardsman are both put solidly into slumber by the arcane doings of Warlock Spiderman. A quick examination reveals demonic horns upon her retainer, just as Father Jack knew it would. Thankfully, the brutish devil is dispatched with haste.
While trying his best to see into the sisters’ window, Jack witnesses the delivery of a note detailing a best reasonable course for the She-Devil’s father. A sum of twelve thousand coins of some kind is recalled in some relation to this. When next the man leaves his home, Jack, with his faithful torchbearer Girly and the Clown’s man Ool, decides it best to follow. The man, a local guildmaster, travels through Marlankh to a Gypsy Square, and from there mounts the stairs of an old tenement. Could this be a den of assassins? Anything is possible in this festering pit of Purgatory.
After a time, the guildmaster returns to his home, fuming with anger. Not long after, we see him again making his way through the city to the ramshackle tenement, and back up the stairs for another sheltered assignation. Ah yes, more capital was required before the unknown congregation would provide the service he was looking for. But what service? A rescue? A mystic insight? A night of knives? Whatever it might be, it’s clearly not a banking institution. That’s not just vodka Jack smells, it’s the pungent odour of trouble.
Wisely drinking a bit more to further confound his path, our furtive father makes another set of travels between Uptown Guildhouse and Gypsysquare Tenement. A stream of armed toughs and ruffians go to and fro from the upper floor of the rundown walkup. Assassins it is. Watching their backs, the trio heads for the Warlock’s newly purchased slum-hold where the She-Devil is bagged. Seeing that none of the thugs are watching the place, Father Jack enters and gives a quick sermon on the dangers of coveting, and the healthful benefits of avoiding wrath. Incidentally, that town about thirty miles north is rumoured to be nice this time of year.
Here is Father Jack now, resting by a campfire miles North of Marlankh, that city on the Edge of Perdition. Warlock Spiderman pines for his lost love, Marzipan’s succubus. Perhaps Jack will cheer him with a soothing homily. The poor man-thing has fallen for the creature. He laments that he might never get the chance to “fill her up with his spider babies.” Perhaps Jack won’t cheer him with a soothing homily.
With a quick prayer that he might again wake up “at the arse end of Cornwall,” he takes a final drink and goes to sleep.
The Clown – Taurus Hell’s Heart by Cole Long
The Dandy – Meriwether Chambliss by Jeremy Duncan
Warlock Spiderman – Philip the Bloody by Evan Elkins
Marzipan – Manzafrain the Mountebank by Robert Parker
All others by Chris Kutalik